Dad always said: The best gifts in life are the ones you don't ask for...

Marvin at CalTech
by Paul Craig

It seems remote. It is. But there was, indeed, a time in some distant vanished world when you and I were graduate students in Pasadena. John Pelham, our Advisor, was about as wild a mentor as one could imagine. Far wilder for sure than I could imagine. John and his wife, Ruth Ellen, lived across the street from CalTech in a house -- a decaying mansion in retrospect -- that was the scene of wilder parties than I care to describe even in an electronic medium. You were a couple of years ahead of me, and obviously (to me at the time) more mature. You would show up occasionally to do some visible physics. Mostly, though, you seemed a quantum-mechanical ephemera. Sort of here; sort of somewhere else (rumored to be in darkest LA, but no one was ever quite sure). One thing absolutely sure was that your social life made ours pure penury. Our refers to a rather decrepit bunch of grad students living at 764 South Los Robles, struggling with Smythe's Electricity and Magnetism -- the hardest course in the world, which you reportedly had passed effortlessly a couple years previous.

You were good for me. You reminded me that there was life outside CalTech. I didn't understand what that life was, but whatever it was, it was enticing.

Eventually we graduated, wandered our separate life-paths, and have now come to rest within an easy drive of each other. Here in Northern California you organized an eclectic discussion crew, to which I've once or twice come. I envy you for having assembled this wonderful group. I wish I could do something similar here in Martinez.

With this reminder that you've reached one of those bench-mark ages, dignified only because they contain that wonderful 'zero' which the Greeks allegedly failed to discover, I pledge to work to renew our friendship.

Happy birthday, Marv. You're sui generis! I'm proud to know you.


An anthology of personal naratives regarding our beloved Marvin Chester